1There followed a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David, in which David grew ever stronger, but the house of Saul ever weaker.
Sons Born in Hebron. 2a Sons were born to David in Hebron: his firstborn, Amnon, of Ahinoam from Jezreel; 3the second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom, son of Maacah, who was the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur;b 4the fourth, Adonijah, son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah, son of Abital;c 5and the sixth, Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.
Ishbaal and Abner Quarrel. 6During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was gaining power in the house of Saul. 7Now Saul had had a concubine, Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. And Ishbaal, son of Saul, said to Abner, “Why have you slept with my father’s concubine?”* d 8Enraged at the words of Ishbaal, Abner said, “Am I a dog’s head from Judah? As of today, I have been loyal to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and his friends, and I have kept you out of David’s clutches; and today you charge me with a crime involving a woman! 9May God do thus to Abner, and more, if I do not carry out for David what the LORD swore to him—e 10that is, take away the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish the throne of David over Israel as well as Judah, from Dan to Beer-sheba.”f 11Ishbaal was no longer able to say a word to Abner, he feared him so.
Abner and David Reconciled. 12Then Abner sent messengers to David in Telam, where he was at the moment, to say, “Make a covenant with me, and you have me on your side, to bring all Israel over to you.” 13He replied, “Good, I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you. You must not appear before me unless you bring back Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to present yourself to me.”g 14At the same time David sent messengers to Ishbaal, son of Saul, to say, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed by paying a hundred Philistine foreskins.” 15Ishbaal sent for her and took her away from her husband Paltiel, son of Laish,h 16who followed her weeping as far as Bahurim. But Abner said to him, “Go back!” So he turned back.
17Abner then had a word with the elders of Israel: “For some time you have been wanting David as your king. 18Now take action, for the LORD has said of David: By David my servant I will save my people Israel from the power of the Philistines and from the power of all their enemies.” 19Abner also spoke with Benjamin, and then went to speak with David in Hebron concerning all that would be agreeable to Israel and to the whole house of Benjamin. 20When Abner, accompanied by twenty men, came to David in Hebron, David prepared a feast for Abner and for the men who were with him. 21Then Abner said to David, “I will now go to assemble all Israel for my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you; you will then be king over all whom you wish to rule.” So David let Abner go on his way in peace.
Death of Abner. 22Just then David’s servants and Joab were coming in from an expedition, bringing much plunder with them. Abner, having been dismissed by David, was no longer with him in Hebron but had gone on his way in peace. 23When Joab and the whole force he had with him arrived, he was informed, “Abner, son of Ner, came to David, and he let him go on his way in peace.” 24So Joab went to the king and said: “What have you done? Abner came to you! Why did you let him get away? 25Don’t you know Abner? He came to trick you, to learn your comings and goings, to learn everything you do.” 26Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner to bring him back from the cistern of Sirah; but David did not know. 27When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside within the city gate to speak with him privately. There he stabbed him in the abdomen, and he died for the blood of Asahel, Joab’s brother.i 28Later David heard of it and said: “Before the LORD, I and my kingdom are forever innocent.j 29May the blood of Abner, son of Ner, be on the head of Joab and all his family. May Joab’s family never be without one suffering from a discharge, or one with a skin disease, or a man who holds the distaff, or one falling by the sword, or one in need of food!”* 30Joab and Abishai his brother had been lying in wait for Abner because he killed Asahel their brother in battle at Gibeon.
David Mourns Abner. 31Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your garments, put on sackcloth, and mourn over Abner.” King David himself followed the bier.k 32When they had buried Abner in Hebron, the king wept aloud at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. 33And the king sang this lament over Abner:
Should Abner have died like a fool?
34Your hands were not bound with chains,
nor your feet placed in fetters;
As one falls before the wicked, you fell.
And all the people continued to weep for him. 35Then they went to console David with food while it was still day. But David swore, “May God do thus to me, and more, if before the sun goes down I eat bread or anything else.”l 36All the people noted this with approval, just as everything the king did met with their approval. 37So on that day all the people and all Israel came to know that it was not the king’s doing that Abner, son of Ner, was put to death. 38The king then said to his servants: “Do you not know that a prince, a great man, has fallen today in Israel. 39Although I am the anointed king, I am weak this day, and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too ruthless for me. May the LORD repay the evildoer in accordance with his evil deed.”m
* [3:7] Asserting a right to the late king’s harem was tantamount to claiming his kingship; cf. 16:21–22; 1 Kgs 2:21–22.
* [3:29] An assortment of imprecations, consisting of physical ailments, weakness, violent death, and poverty.
b. [3:3] 2 Sm 13:37; 15:8.
d. [3:7] 2 Sm 16:21–22; 21:8–10; 1 Kgs 2:21–22.
f. [3:10] 2 Sm 5:2; 1 Sm 25:30.
g. [3:13] 1 Sm 18:20–27.
h. [3:15] 1 Sm 25:44.
i. [3:27] 2 Sm 2:17–23; 1 Kgs 2:5, 31–33.
k. [3:31] 2 Sm 21:10.